Cartagena is a colorful fairy-tale old town full of history and well preserved colonial architecture. Somehow, it reminded me of San Juan in Puerto Rico. But with its cobblestone streets packed with colorful houses decorated with flowers hanging all over from the windows, it’s not only a pearl among the colonial towns in the Caribbean but also in the whole South America. And as such, dear friends, expect it to be crowded and also in low season! But that should not block you from visiting it. On the other hand, and as a consequence of fast-growing tourism, the city is considered as one of the safest cities in the whole Colombia! In this post, I will give you some tips what to do in beautiful Cartagena, where to eat and stay and will also take you to a beach far beyond the town. Are you ready? Let’s go!
When to go and how long to stay?
Cartagena lies on the Caribbean coast and is an all-year-round destination, although it’s maybe too hot and humid. I believe there is no coincidence why the Colombians sometimes call it Cartahell! Be sure to wear comfortable and breathable clothes and find a place to stay with air-conditioning and protection against mosquitoes.
Although a very touristic destination and for some people sadly the only place they visit in Colombia, Cartagena deserves to be seen and to be enjoyed, especially with your camera because it is just so photogenic! But if you like to shoot nice pictures, don’t stay only one day as we did. I advise you to stay at least 2-3 days and get the best out of the early mornings before the sun creates strong shadows and cruise boats bring crowds of day tourists.
We planned initially 3 full days but at the end, we decided to escape for a weekend to Rosario Islands to enjoy a bit of the Caribbean beaches there. This gave us at the end only one full day in the town and when leaving, we both said we could even stay longer. So I would say 2-3 days would be great.
Explore The Old Town
Visit the Old Town with the clock tower, cathedral, ramparts, and just enjoy strolling its cobblestone streets full of photogenic houses and their floral décor.
For those who like to see the city with a local guide in order to learn something about its history and culture, try out the Free Walking Tour and reward the guide based on your satisfaction.
Don’t forget Getsemani
If you have more than one day, check out also the charming part Getsemani for its awesome street art, café’s, restaurants and bars. In the evenings, go for salsa dance to Havana.
Where to eat
When feeling like something sweet such as fresh juices and cakes, head to Pasteleria Mila.
In the late afternoon, take a drink at Café del Mar to enjoy a spectacular sunset, before heading for a dinner or checking out the artisanal boutiques in the Old Town.
For a lunch or dinner with a spectacular view, you will love the terrace of Crepes & Waffles.
Tip for accomodation: Casa Mary
If you are looking for a place to stay, I can recommend an amazing bed & breakfast, Casa Mary, where we stayed in Getsemani. It was about 10 min’ walking distance from the Old Town and the docks from where the ships leave to Isla Baru and Islas Rosario. The rooms are small and cozy and a tasty homemade breakfast is served on the terrace with floral décor and a nice view.
Tip for beach trip: Rosario Islands
And last, but not least, take a boat ride to the Rosario Islands, an archipelago located about 100 km from Cartagena and a less-crowded alternative to Playa Blanca. The little coral islands with pristine water are a nice contrast to the hot and touristy city and a perfect day or weekend escape from civilization. The boats from Cartagena to Rosario Islands leave in the morning between 8-10 from the docks and the boat ride takes about 1h. From Isla Grande, the boats leave from different places in the early afternoon, which makes it better to stay overnight (if you can) to really enjoy it. We stayed overnight at Golden Frog Hostel on Isla Grande, a place with hammocks and palm trees everywhere. There we enjoyed two different beaches and saw the local village where you really have the impression that you are far away from civilization. You can also snorkel here or do kayak in the mangroves.
So this is about Cartagena! What are your impressions, did I persuade you to visit the city? Have you been to Cartagena? What do you think of the city, did you enjoy it? Do you have any other tips? I would be happy to read your ideas in the below comments!
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